Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Meditation, monkey-mind, trancing

I'll be writing about the shared worship services at the Blog Con before I can really wrap my brain around the action/connection part. Although the latter have more potential for immediate world-change action, the former are both easier for me to write about in my Arachne voice (rather than my researcher or friend tone) and possibly may have a longer lasting effect.

On Saturday morning, Lorianne of Hoarded Ordinaries led us in a Buddhist Zen meditation. I found it...exciting. Which, as Lorianne mentioned to me, is not a word she has often heard related to meditation.

When I've "meditated" as a Pagan, it's been something of a guided visualization. Loosely based on some Starhawk rituals, it involves semi-controlled trance states, in which I act and interact with things that may be projections from my subconscious or may be masks for aspects of divinity. (I think they're both.) It's highly imaginative and requires that faculty to work; I have to "not be here", but be "elsewhere". In that elsewhere, aided by my imagery, I face fears, tend to fields, hold arguments, fight, wander, and so on, using these imaginative journeys to understand, heal, and strengthen myself.

(There are trances and "meditations" that I've used for outward work, especially as I've come to feel more stable and less in need of constant tune-ups of the soul. Those fall into a different category and are less imaginative and more active, and lead to action in the world rather than simply helping fix my troubles. Different category, for another time.)

This kind of imaginative trance is pretty far from the Zen work we did: be here now. And I could feel myself rebelling against it! I wanted to use the silent time to pray, or talk, or trance...but instead I kept thinking my mantra ("beloved Lady/be with us" to call on her positive face, but not to invoke a specific aspect) and kept bringing myself back to the moment.

This won't be news to meditators, but it was incredibly difficult. Every breath my mind would run off after something--the monkey-mind, racing around looking at every new thing until it got distracted again--and had to be yanked into the present. I'd set the mantra on autopilot and start noticing how my eyesight drifts to the right. I'd catch myself, return to the mantra, and start thinking meta-thoughts about whether this was something I wanted to do in the future, how I'd tell a friend about it, was I doing this right...and then yank myself back again.

Lorianne said that it's those yanks, that returning to the present, that is the aha! of meditation and enlightenment. She also referred to the idea of the six senses--the sixth being "mind".

Why was it exciting? Because it was something new. Something difficult, that revealed a tendency towards distraction much deeper than I knew. And possibly most, because this kind of meditation felt like training. Training to focus myself on the moment...perhaps I can use that to focus myself on one thought, one ritual, one trance. In short, if I learn to meditate more, it will be a skill that changes all my other skills--and one more thing to offer in my prayers.


At 5:18 AM, Blogger Lorianne said...

I'm chuckling because whenever I've encountered guided, visual-style meditations (for instance, at yoga classes), I've rebelled against *that*: "Hey, quit tellin' me what to *think*! I just wanna sit here in silence, 'kay?"

So it's funny to hear you talk about your imagery-based meditation & how the "stripped down" nature of Zen meditation was foreign. There are many tools, it seems, in the Universe's spiritual toolbox, and I think we each pick & choose which ones fit our own personalities, backgrounds, and proclivities. But occasionally it's good to realize that our favorite tool isn't fitted for everyone, and someone else's tool might offer us something we need.

btw, I love the name "Arachne." In middle (junior high) school, I had to do a project on Greek mythology, and I wrote a re-telling on the Arachne myth. Since I was already a nature-nut, I loved the way the story blended human craft (weaving) with a wild creature (spiders). So weave on, Arachne!


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